Relay attendees brave Friday night rain

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2007

There's the scent of something delicious cooking on the grill, the sound of laughter ringing across the field on a warm spring evening. People dressed as pirates, bobby soxers and hula girls are making the rounds of a track, as others clad in their signature purple t-shirts greet each other with hugs and smiles.

Classic pop and C&W tunes pour out of the speakers.

It's a reunion, a party, a major community celebration. It's Butler

County's annual Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society.

Last Friday night, hundreds from across the county gathered at the YMCA in Greenville to remember those who lost their battle with cancer and to honor and celebrate the survivors as everyone went &#8220Cruisin' for a Cure.”

As the major fundraising event for the ACS, the 2007 Relay raised more than $107,000, &#8220with more donations still coming in over the next couple of weeks,” said Joan Reynolds, RFL chair for the county.

&#8220We reached our goal before the event, which is always so gratifying. This is our 11th year, and the community once again came together for a successful event.”

Successful, in spite of the fact Mother Nature played a few nasty tricks that night.

As winds whipped across the field, thunder crackled ominously in the distance and rains began to fall, event emcee Ralph Stacy assured his audience, &#8220If there are any weather warnings, I will tell you to evacuate the campsite and you will do exactly that.”

With 700 luminarias set out around the track for the annual lighting ceremony, prayers went up for a break in the weather. As the rain turned to a sprinkle, Luminarias Chair Ethelyn Watson and her crew of volunteers made their rounds to light the votives.

When Logistics Chair Roy Hale flipped off the stadium lights, an &#8220aah” rose across the field as the candles glowed in the darkness.

A well-received new addition was added to the Luminaria Ceremony in 2007, the Torch of Hope. Ten tiki torches adorned with brass memorial plates and Relay's signature purple ribbon were lit in memory or honor of a cancer patient.  The Torches and Luminarias together raised $6,100 - the highest amount ever raised through the ceremony in Butler

County, Reynolds said. She lauded Watson for her many efforts to build the program each year.

&#8220I really liked the addition of the Torches of Hope; it added something special to the ceremony,” said breast cancer survivor and Torch participant, Kathy Atchison of Greenville.

&#8220I was thrilled to be one of the very first to be honored. Until you have walked in a survivor's shoes, you really don't know what Relay means.”

For participants who haven't personally fought the illness, knowing those who have makes them want to be a part of the annual event.

&#8220I have a lot of friends and family that have battled cancer,” said Mary Lou Crenshaw, who donated 16 inches of her hair to the Greater Greenville Service League's team. The team has been collecting ponytails to donate to charitable organizations that make wigs for cancer patients. Those unable to attend their event in Confederate Park earlier in the season were able to donate their hair on stage Friday night.

Crenshaw is not new to trimming her tresses for a good cause.

&#8220This is the third or fourth time I've cut my hair for Locks of Love. My daughter Jennie was really the one who got me started. She did it first and has donated several times herself,' Crenshaw said.

&#8220I keep thinking I won't do it again, but end up letting my hair growŠwhen I get through certain points when my hair looks and feel bad, I think that my hair might make someone else feel a little better.”

This time, she donated her hair for a friend and co-worker, Rebecca Cox.

&#8220Rebecca had breast cancer in 2004 and truly had a hard time with the chemotherapy. From all indications, she was cancer-free,” Crenshaw explained.

 &#8220A few months ago, a new lump was found and she is going through chemo againŠhere is a lady who can truly see the advances in cancer treatment and things seem to be going so much better for her this time.”

Jill Stallworth, who headed up the hair donation efforts, said a total of seven ponytails, adding up to 70 inches of hair, were donated Friday night by Crenshaw, Jackie Guidry (15 inches), Abbey Martin (10 inches), Kayla Smith (10 inches), Shera Norman (10 inches), Meredith Mann (10 inches) and Marianne Russell (8 inches). A total of 30 ponytails were collected by Stallworth's team this year.

&#8220We appreciate Carrie and Barbara from the Hair Parlor and Mona from Marilyn's for being our hair dressers for the evening - and all the ladies and girls who donated their hair for this cause,” Stallworth said.

Relay wasn't just about giving; it was also about getting recognition for team efforts. Bethel

Baptist Church took the Spirit of Relay Award for 2007. Greenville Middle School raised the most money while Harley's Angels raised the most money per capita.

Harley's Angels also won a new addition to team competitions, the Tacky Tourist Relay. Alabama Power won for Best Team Decoration; First United

Methodist Church took Cook-Off honors, and the Top Three in the Relay Idol were Billy Studstill, Amy Lewis and Amanda Conway, who proved the ultimate Relay Idol.

&#8220Relay is something you never want to miss. Being part of that first lap each year, the Cancer Survivors Walk, brings continued hope for the futureŠI applaud all those who worked so hard on behalf of Butler County,” Atchison said.

Crenshaw agrees.

&#8220We as a family always enjoy participating in Relay. It's a lot of work, but also a lot of funŠwhere else can you go for an all-night party, see your friends of all ages, get free entertainment and be part of such a worthwhile fundraising event? I am always so impressed with how much money is raised just here in Butler